Response to readings
The uncanny by Sigmund Freud is an article that tries to bring together two concepts; psychoanalysis and literary criticism. The first idea in the uncanny is the conceptualization of "Uncanny". Freud argues that uncanny as a concept refers to something that appears to be both fearful and frightening. He goes on to plot the development of “Uncanny”, and points out that everything starts out as being familiar and then develops into being uncanny. “That what is ‘uncanny’ is frightening because it is not known and familiar” (Freud 2). This is borrowed from the two German words, Heimlich and unheimlich. Here, something is added to the name Heimlich, which is familiar, to make it Unheimlich, which is unfamiliar.
Freud then goes on to look at the products of the concept of uncanny. He points out that “uncanny effect is produced by effacing the distinction between imagination and reality” (Freud 15). This is primarily seen in literature and art, where the distinction between reality and fiction is not clearly established. He then offers examples of uncanny experiences, where inanimate objects are made to seem more animate. The portrayal of limbs, cut off, for instance, are a sure way of bringing about the uncanny effect. They are objects that are familiar, but they rapidly move to be frightening due to their portrayal.
Analysis of this text shows that Freud manages to link the two concepts of psychoanalysis and literary criticism effectively. He is conscious of the literary reception that this piece would get and, therefore, presents the concept of "uncanny" well; starting from its history, its application, and its visualization. Freud also does well in defining uncanny by offering a host of circumstances where the effect could be experienced. He moves the concept from the bigger picture to personal experience, where the reader can fully conceptualize the issue.
Kelley, in his article on the uncanny, seeks to build on the ideas earlier presented by Freud. This article, therefore, attempts to get a deeper understanding of the uncanny effect and tries to produce such effects through art. Kelley, therefore, argues that he is part of a wider system that tries to present visuals that bring about the uncanny effect that Freud talked about. His intentions are captured in this text, “My reasons for doing this exhibition were timely ones; I was interested in examining a current trend, jumping on the bandwagon if you will” (Kelley 15).
Kelley’s other area of focus is on the aspects that are required in the making of art objects that produce the uncanny effect. He goes into details on different aspects such as color, “color becomes the problematic meeting point between sign and signified, a problem that is negated in painting by the fact it operates in a two-dimensional mind” (Kelley 10). He gives an explanation that since the uncanny is based on familiarity; the art to produce the uncanny effect needs to be made in such a way that the distinction between the reality and imagination becomes thin. This is the reason for using color in painting, focusing on the scale of art that represents the human body, such that the piece of art appears to be realer. The confusion that comes with the manipulation of these aspects such as color, scale, and material contribute to the construction of the uncanny effect.
In this article, Kelley does well in building on Freud’s idea of the uncanny. The application of art to the production of the uncanny effect appears as an effort of getting a better understanding of what Freud was talking about. Through the text, Kelley takes the reader through the steps made to provoke the uncanny effect. This is achieved by the careful manipulation of aspects such as scale, color, and materials. The description he offers of objects and sculptures on display is efficient and helps in the reader’s visualization of how they provoke the uncanny effect. The article does well in portraying how artists have applied Freud’s concept of the uncanny, by introducing an aesthetic and physical perspective to it.
Freud, Sigmund. "The Uncanny." n.d.
Kelley, Mike. "The Uncanny." n.d.